Summary and book reviews of Casa Rossa by Francesca Marciano

Casa Rossa

By Francesca Marciano

Casa Rossa
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2002,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2003,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

A mesmerizing story of three generations of a twentieth-century Italian family.

Casa Rossa—a farmhouse in Puglia owned by the Strada family—is being sold. And as she packs up the house, Alina Strada pieces together the history of her family's past, and of the lives of three extraordinary Strada women.

Grandmother Renée, a beautiful Tunisian, is wife, muse, and model for Alina's painter grandfather, but she leaves him and flees to Nazi Germany. Alina's mother, Alba, marries a melancholic screenwriter and lives la dolce vita in 1950s Rome until her husband's mysterious death. Isabella, Alina's sister and once her best friend, finds herself drawn to a dangerous ideology in the 1970s; the sisters' love for one another soon shifts to a betrayal of which they can never speak. As these individual lives unfold, so does the larger one—the story of a family whose secrets collide with history.

From the duplicity of Italy's role in the thirties to the dark years of terrorism in our own times, and moving from Rome and Southern Italy to New England and New York City, Casa Rossa is a brilliant weave of lives and memories: an enthralling novel.

PROLOGUE

When we were small, my sister Isabella and I used to wonder whether Alba had murdered our father.

Murdered him, and then made up the suicide story.

We'd be in the kitchen, hunting for food, two skinny girls, ten and twelve. Murdered. We'd let that possibility hang in the air, to see if anything crashed or shattered, but nothing ever moved. The house remained perfectly still.

"Who knows, anyway," we'd say, to finish it off. We didn't really want to know. If she had done it, eventually they would come and lock her up.

It was bad enough, what had happened already. Dad vanishing, like a card in a trick.

We'd hear the keys in the door. She'd come in smiling, wearing her green dress and sandals, her arms full of groceries.

There she was: Alba. Our mother. The Murderer.

"Want a prosciutto sandwich, darlings?"

When we were that small, things shifted proportions all the time: the really dangerous stuff shrunk, curled up in a ball so ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How do Marciano’s initial descriptions of Casa Rossa and the surrounding countryside [pp. 13, 15] create an emotional backdrop for the story that is about to unfold? What particular images or passages underscore the significance of the house in defining the relationships in the Strada family? How do the depictions of Stellario and the other villagers help to establish the family’s cultural and social values?

  2. Is Lorenzo’s "indecent" fresco of Renée [p. 22] more than a reflection of his fury at her betrayal and departure? What does it reveal about his character and his beliefs about the roles of men and women in a marriage? To what extent does Renée share his attitudes? What marks the turning point in their ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
New York Times

Intensely romantic, [with] a closeness and perceptiveness worthy of Flaubert.

Chicago Tribune

Marciano writes with consuming, abiding passion.

New York Times Book Review

Impressive… Wise and beautifully written.

USA Today

Remarkable… sensuous… compellingly readable. Makes you feel as if you've come back from someplace very far away.

San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

Breathtaking… Marciano writes with grace and knowledge.

Kirkus Reviews

An engaging tale, simply told and with a measure of wit. A high-end soap opera to be enjoyed and forgotten. Take it to the beach.

Publishers Weekly

The intricate complications may challenge belief, but the author imperturbably weaves them together into a glamorous, romantic whole.

Library Journal - Robin Nesbitt

A good read for fans of multigenerational sagas and modern Italian history, this is recommended for most libraries.

Times Literary Supplement (London)

A powerful first novel… Marciano evokes a spirit of place that is cathartic rudely, exultingly alive.

Reader Reviews
Sophie Annesley

Casa Rossa
This book is an incredible journey through the eyes of three generations; you travel through Rome and the Southern Italian counrtyside to hear the tales of one family set against the back drop of Italy in WW2, the terrorism of the seventies through ...   Read More

paola romagnani

Casa Rossa is a great book. It is simply brilliant. It made me cry and laugh and I could not put the book down, I read it all in three days. I'm Italian but have not lived the 70s, Casa Rossa has led me into that period with such an intensity, all ...   Read More

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